Syrian Friends

It is probably inaccurate to call them friends after one visit, though the ease with which they allowed us into their home and life was touching.  I have copied this blog to them, so what you are reading is approved.  The picture we took was not approved for personal reasons and so this picture is of a random Syrian family.

I had the privilege of delivering your gifts of furniture, household items and cash to the Syrian family of five this week.  They are very grateful.  The mom, Vildan, ran out out meet us at the street, ignoring the cold wind.  And being Syrian the cold wind is colder for her.  I learned later that they started out in Prince Albert Saskatchewan for nine months.   And when I asked what was the biggest challenge of living in Canada:  “the cold and the mosquitoes”.

Two of the children, Ghaith and Naya, are able to communicate well in English.  They have come to Canada to fulfill their dreams by way of getting an education.  They plan to be doctors.  For the parents, language takes longer.  They would like to take ESL now that they are in Mississauga.  Bindi, who was my guide on this visit and works for the Region of Peel, will look into some connections for them.

Another challenge is finding meaningful employment.  Rachad, the father, is a jeweler by trade.  But how do you find work in that field here?

It seems that the hardest part of coming as a refuge, once you learn to deal with cold and mosquitoes, is finding community.  Immanuel was started as an immigrant landing place where culture and religion were a powerful bond.  That same option does not appear to be readily available for these Syrians.  There are other Syrians, of course, but not a place of community.  Vildan said to us as we left, having insisted we sit and drink very strong coffee first (which she insisted was Canadian not Turkish coffee) she said “come every day!”  I think that sums up their deepest need.

Vildan would be a wonderful friend.  She so wants to connect that she ignores the language barrier and tries her best.  This amuses her children, of course.  They are teenagers.  They translate for her.  One thing they could not translate was her exuberant statement: “I love just in Toronto”.  Which made me think she was grateful that they could now live in the GTA.  I responded as if that were the case, but she then repeated her statement with vigor, because it is a universal belief that by repeating things with more emphasis they become clearer.  It eventually worked.  I now heard “I love Justin Trudeau”.  She is politically astute.  This is one of the families that was fast-tracked into Canada about a year ago as a result of our prime minister’s campaign promise.

I learned a few more things about the immigration process and the difference between church-sponsored and government sponsored families.  I will investigate them further before I share what at this point is hearsay.

So, now that I have teased you with this opportunity, I expect some of you are wondering “what else do they need?”  We have done the easy part.  What they need is someone to visit and befriend them and connect with them in community.  “Come back every day!”

They are capable people.  They told me that have what they need now.  They know how to ask questions.  They asked me to drive them on an errand and they are learning to navigate the system and culture here.  On their behalf, thank you for your part in helping them